I’m sure Guildford-based readers will be really pleased to know that I’m swinging ever wider of the mark in my attempts to review things local to Surrey. Because last week we ventured West for some serious R & R… & N (where N = Nappy Changes)
First up was the matter of accommodation on a bit of a budget: our plan was find a halfway point between Shrewsbury and Bristol, both places we haven’t seen a whole lot of. And this is how we came to land up in Walcott House, a lovely Georgian place in the pretty village of Pembridge, Hereford. The clincher here was that the owners have young twins, so imagine Eva’s whoop of delight when the door was opened to a playroom jammed with toys and books for boys and girls. Quite a step up from the piles of coat hangers and used pants she is usually greeted with when she opens a door in our flat (Nope, housekeeping admittedly not my strongest point).
With typical timing, DP and I actually felt rather ill for the first day or two in Herefordshire, though we did briefly venture out into Leominster, a town awash with antique and junk shops, one area in which Guildford is sadly lacking. Frustratingly we were unable to get in and have a good rifle through the many treasures on offer because a) such shops aren’t made for steering a Monster Truck through and b) we were a tiny bit worried we might barf on the merchandise.
We did, though, spend an inordinate amount of time loitering outside one shop trying to work out what the hell this painting [below] was about. As we were making bets on whether the object in the top left was a wedge of cheese or a door-stop, the shop owner ambled out.
‘It’s yours for a quid’, he offered brightly, ‘I found it in a skip!’
Gotta love junk shops. And I was half tempted for a moment: MOBA are always on the look out to expand their collection.
So, tickled by Leominster, but unfit to explore it further that day, we retreated to the house and garden and hunkered down on a picnic blanket gingerly nibbling cheese sandwiches as Eva enjoyed herself ‘mowing the lawn’.
Now: heads-up Cheese Fans. Because these are A Thing:
Since we’re not likely to be tying the knot any time soon, can someone take careful note of this, then invite us to their wedding, please?
Anyway, this exciting development in Cakery was discovered on a quick trip to Monkland Cheese Cafe for a light lunch. These folk sell all sorts of goodies, but also make their very own cheese, right on the remises. We missed the tour, but there were plenty of samples afoot, and we agreed that the Garlic and Herb flavour was the business. Their Camembert style cheese (‘The Other Monk’) was mellow and almost towards a hard cheese in texture and flavour. Definitely the opposite of those enormous French discs that slowly melt out of their packaging unleashing an unearthly honk into your house for days. So if you’re a bit terrified of those French versions, this one could offer a gentle starting point on the Camembert spectrum for you. And the smoked cheese hit my buttons a treat. So a selection was ordered, which came with some lovely crackers (of which my favourite was the orange and pistachio one in photo below) and we all proceeded to Cheese ourselves to the hilt.
The only downside was that the highchair they kindly brought out for Eva was one of those that unfolds and tilts the child too far backwards so they gradually slip down behind the tray, harness or no. This happened several times during the holiday. (Note to cafe owners the world over: Please, please just get an Antilop!) And there were no hot cheesy dishes to be found – surely they’re missing a trick with no Welsh Rarebit on offer? Though there was a hearty soup. And some lovely cider from the local mill, Dunkertons (Can’t recommended their Black Fox highly enough!) And their homemade apple cake looked to die for!
Outside we stopped to chat to an passer-by who was admiring Eva. After some flower-smelling, Eva wondered over and peered cautiously up at the newcomer for a few moments. Then her arms shot upwards, quite decisively. Clearly the lady had passed muster as Eva was asking be picked up. And the lady kindly obliged – at which point I nearly burst into applause she looked to be about 80years old, and Eva, as anyone who has lifted her will tell you, seems to be made of dark matter.
Mad Dogs and Siblings
Later on, we headed for the local play area, where I struck up a convo with another friendly local. Or, to put it another way, was approached at warp-speed by her hyperactive dog who, judging by the words on his collar, was also ‘FRIENDLY’. (The problem is that its a bit hard to read that until the dog is within stroking -or biting- distance!)
We chatted a little about children as DP took Eva down the slide, and she lamented the way her own two daughters were like ‘Chalk and Cheese’, keeping each other at arms length.
It was a forlorn scene, as she sucked on her ciggie under a grey sky and shook her head over their rift. And it left me reflecting on the issue of siblings, one of many unknowns of parenthood. It’s common to feel the clock is ticking towards a brother or sister when your first passes the year threshold, I think. Sometimes it seems less about will you have one, and more about when: close together for reasons of friendship? Or further apart to give more uninterrupted time to the first? Will they be the same gender, and will that increase closeness, etc, etc?
I think there’s much to be said for being a sibling.. closeness, and learning how to share being major plus points. But Dog Lady was a reminder that, yes, you can have your children two, three years apart, that they can be the same sex: that’s no guarantee they are going to get on.
I’m an only child (well, functionally, at least) and have been greeted with sympathy sometimes upon disclosure of this, even the suggestion that having only one child is somehow cruel. Putting aside the issue of whether my parents even chose to have a single child for a moment, I find this rather infuriating. I certainly don’t feel hard done by, having had my parent’s full attention for years, and friends coming to stay being a major excitement that it perhaps wouldn’t be if you were more used to same-age company at home. Plus, it makes you more proactive in going out and finding friends, with no ‘fall-back plan’. Becoming ‘spoilt’ is always a danger, but one which I do not believe is exclusive to only children!
‘I pity you’, one friend told me, when she was a bit worse-for-wear ‘because you’ll never know what it’s like to have brothers’. She is a soppy git, and loves her brothers dearly. And that’s heartwarming. It is. But if I don’t know what it’s like then I’ve no concept of what I’m missing. So I’m not missing it. Try asking anyone who’s blind from birth if they ‘miss’ having sight!!! Exactly. They won’t want your pity. They’d probably just gape in your direction in exasperation – in fact, if you’re lucky you might escape without a slap to the face!
‘Well, best have just the one’ advised Dog Lady. But, I’m not sure that’s the answer either. As always, I think for every sibling success story (see Soppy Git, above!) there’ll be a minor tragedy like her daughters, well into their 40s and showing no signs of a reunion. And for all the theories on the ‘best’ way to time things, there is always someone offering counter evidence. In the end, I think you read up, access, but in the end, do what feels right and hope for the best. In fact, my main guiding principle when considering whether Eva might have siblings is that the world really is not short of people. Which brings us to the subject of Adoption, but that’s a conversation for another day..
Back in Pembridge, Dog Lady was passionately telling me how lovable Staffordshire Bull Terriers are. Her lively boy was a rescue dog. I like these dogs too (my introduction was to a particularly soppy one called Xena at a games company I worked for, and she was delightful) and they do get a bad rap. The nature vs nurture debate ever rears its head!
Unfortunately though, her words were being somewhat undermined by her Staffie who was literally savaging her jumper as she spoke! So, happily, a melancholy convo ended on quite a comical note (to me, anyway. But I wasn’t the one having to disentangle a growling hound from an unravelling hem!)….
I hope her daughters sort themselves out though – for their sake, yes, but also for her; sitting mournfully with her dog, under that overcast sky.
[In Part 2, we hit Shrewsbury, Hay-on-Wye and have a Bouncy Old Time…]